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I’m A Mom With Rheumatoid Arthritis & This Is What It’s Like

Parenting with rheumatoid arthritis can be a rough road.

“Mommy, will you play with me?” my 5-year-old son asks from the doorway of my bedroom. “No,” I respond quietly, “I can’t right now. I don’t feel good. Maybe later.” I can’t get out of bed, let alone chase my son around the yard like I used to, and the guilt of this inescapable realization is all-consuming. But as a mom with Rheumatoid Arthritis I have had to get used to not being the mom I want to be… or the mom my kids deserve.

For the most part my illness is invisible, save for my swollen hands, feet, and the ever-present bags under my eyes. And because my pain isn’t visible most people don’t take it seriously, let alone understand it. For example, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) has the word “arthritis” in its name, but it’s nothing like the arthritis your grandmother probably has. So when people hear about my condition and immediately ask me if I’ve tried ibuprofen, or the latest supplement or cream, I have to laugh to keep myself from crying. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their help, it’s just that RA is different and I know, from painful experience, that run-of-the-mill, over-the-counter remedies aren’t going to work. Ever.

RA is a chronic condition where, for some unknown reason, your body’s immune system starts attacking your joints. The inflammation created as a result of this attack makes my fingers, toes, wrists, and ankles feel hot, stiff, and sore. I liken the pain to back labor, which just so happens to be the worst pain I have ever felt… until now. Some days it’s impossible to get out of bed in the morning, and other days I can’t open a bottle of medicine, pick up my toddler, or even hold a cup of coffee. Everything I need to be able to do as a mother is inhibited by this disease, yet rarely is it taken seriously.

When the pain doesn’t threaten to derail my days, the fatigue does. Rarely do I have the energy to do what I want, or need, to do each day to raise my kids, do my job, and keep my house clean. Being a mom is hard, regardless, but being a mom when you feel like you have a never-ending flu and broken fingers and toes is even harder. My kids don’t understand, though, and I’m realizing that trying to explain my condition to them is nothing short of impossible.

Read on: I'm A Mom With Rheumatoid Arthritis & This Is What It's Like

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